An Ironic Cycling Event

I’ve written several times about a trail near my house called Mountain Home Creek Trail. Decades ago it had been the road from the valley floor to Camp Angelus, and Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino National Forest. But it was abandoned when a new road was carved into the side of the precipitous canyon to accommodate modern vehicles. Over time, the old road succumbed to rock slides, winter rains washed out bridges, and now, most of it is little more than a singletrack trail, kept marginally passable by dedicated mountain bikers. (The trail has been unofficially named the John Elliot Trail, a nod to its most dedicated trail maintainer, a retired physics professor.)

Recently, Frontier Communications decided that the 72 1/2 residents of Camp Angelus (now called Angelus Oaks) were in need of fiber optic cable and proceeded to run a bulldozer down the trail to allow the trucks needed for cable installation to access the poles that run the length of the rugged canyon. In doing so, they smashed the manzanita, Scotch Broom, flowering yuccas, and whatever else happened to line the trail. They pushed huge rocks that had provided interest to the mountain bike trail aside, creating a monotonous road where once a trail had been. The blade filled in ruts with loose sand, removed the water bars built to divert water from the trail, and turned one of the stream crossings into a muddy quagmire. We who have been riding, hiking, and maintaining the trail were heartsick at the desecration of one of the most scenic trails in California.

Having heard of the despoliation of our trail, Sally and I decided to see for ourselves, hoping against hope that reports had been exaggerated. The ruin had been halted about two miles from the bottom of the trail by a washed-out bridge, so the first two miles were still pristine. Rounding a turn we found two of our friends standing an appropriate social distance from a third, Greg, who was lying comfortably at the side of the trail. We soon learned that he was not resting comfortably. Descending the trail, Greg, a young sixtyish man, had caught his front wheel in one of the ruts, now invisible because of being filled with loose sand, and was thrown over the bars. He was hurled onto his hip by way of knee and followed by elbow and shoulder, onto a section of remaining asphalt. It soon became evident that the damage was not minor and he would not be able to ride, or even hobble down the trail. Being about three miles from the nearest motorized vehicle access point, we realized that he would have been in a real pickle but for the fact that the trail was now navigable for a rescue vehicle.

So, while we cursed the powers that had sabotaged our trail, we couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit grateful that their wanton destruction had facilitated a rescue.

Greg suffered a fractured hip and other bruises and scrapes. He is expected to be able to walk without the aid of crutches in about a month.

Sally and I rode downhill with all due caution.